Plans are coming together for the redevelopment of Eastern Hills Mall to reshape the 50-year-old shopping center into a town center with housing options to wellness centers and stores and restaurants.
Representatives from Uniland Development Co. and San Francisco-based Gensler Architects will unveil their vision for the $250-million plus, multi-year conversion of Eastern Hills Mall Tuesday evening at the Transit Road shopping center.
“Eastern Hills is what we consider the perfect smart growth project,” said Carl Montante Jr., Uniland vice president. “We have 100 acres to work with near Main Street and Sheridan Drive and fronting on Transit Road. You can’t do much better than that.”
Montante said Uniland could be presenting concept plan and starting a mandated environmental impact statement, as required by Clarence officials sometime in 2020’s first quarter. Conceivably, construction could begin within 12 or 15 months.
Montante said some demolition will be involved as Uniland follows the Gensler blueprint for the mall.
“Right now, the mall is very inward facing,” Montante said. “We want to create something that is very outward facing.”
Talks are underway with current mall tenants to set time lines for when, or if, any have to be relocated during the construction phases.
Montante said the mall will be gradually transformed and it could take as long as 20 years until everything is completely finished. Much of the development schedule will be market driven.
“We will be working closely with the merchants,” Montante said. “We will be keeping everyone in the loop.”
Tentative plans include a variety of housing options from townhouses, market apartments and senior housing. Other elements may include office space, wellness, health care and entertainment options along with traditional retail and restaurants.
“Retail and restaurants will help set the vibe of the town center,” Montante said.
The mixed-use elements may also help attract office tenants and their workforce, Montante said.
Eastern Hills Mall is one of three shopping centers in the Northtowns considering a mixed-use component. Similar plans are under consideration for the Boulevard Mall in Amherst and WS Development is bringing elements of a town center concept into its $75 million Station Twelve at the former Northtown Plaza.
“It is almost a natural evolution,” Montante said. “Our plan is more akin to an urban village than a shopping center.”
That’s why residential will dominate the early development phases, Montante said.
Residents give the town center critical mass, the developer explained. Critical mass could fuel the future development phases.
Also being considered is an outdoor skating rink, a hook that may bring people to Eastern Hills during the winter months.
Montante said a rink is “definitely on our radar screen.”
“The bottom line is that Eastern Hills is designed to be dense in terms of elements and options,” Montante said. “Our goal is to be a major destination within the region.”